Black Art Gala showcases African-American artists from Bay Area

About 40 Black photographers, sculptors, painters and musicians will show their talent at the Black Art Gala on Sunday, February 25th at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Tampa.

It’s the second gala celebrating the work of Black artists in the Tampa Bay area. Both were organized by Justin Gray, who has helped coordinate a number of events at the Straz.

“I decided to do it because just in the most general sense, specifically during Black History Month, it’s a great opportunity to shed some light, bring some representation to a lot of artists that may not be getting as much recognition, as much attention in Tampa,’’ says Gray.

“I also wanted to do something awesome, for want of a better term, something really remarkable… finding an opportunity for 30 or so African American artists to perform in one of the largest stages in the southeastern United States,’’ he adds.

For several of the artists, it will be the biggest stage upon which they ever performed, Gray says.

The visual artists will have their work set up in an “artist village,’’ he says. “All of the art that’s on display from those 20, 25 visual artists will be on sale. One-hundred percent of what the artist sells goes to the artist, so it isn’t like a split where we take a portion.’’

Five musical acts from Bay Area talent will perform during the evening. A bar will be available. An awards ceremony in Ferguson Hall will honor Black citizens in the community for outstanding achievement in various endeavors. Among the honorees will be popular Tampa radio personality Shandra Littleton of “Wild 94.1.’’
Armature Works, Gobioff Foundation, BayFirst National Bank, Greenbook of

Tampa Bay, Symphonic Distribution, Shuffle Tampa and Velvet Gypsy are among the sponsors of the black-tie event.

“It is a black-tie gala. Not a classic black-tie gala but I guess a more modernized black-tie gala,’’ Gray says. 

He’s hoping that attendees will dress to the nines.

Gray says his vision was inspired by Met Gala, New York’s annual charity fashion show that brings out the glitterati.

“So many celebrities attend that event and they take that opportunity to really demonstrate what’s forward in fashion. So that’s what we’re kind of using as our guideline when we say black tie,’’ Gray says.

Gray, who works in the food and beverage business, was a partner with designer Kyle Kilgore in the fashion business. Kilgore Studios had a shop on the corner of Ashley Drive and Zack Street in downtown Tampa, but it didn’t survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a couture, basically avant-garde luxury clothing brand,’’ he says. “We focused more than anything on high-end, one-of-a-kind evening gowns, dresses.’’

For ticket information, go to Black Art Gala.
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Read more articles by Philip Morgan.

Philip Morgan is a freelance writer living in St. Petersburg. He is an award-winning reporter who has covered news in the Tampa Bay area for more than 50 years. Phil grew up in Miami and graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism. He joined the Lakeland Ledger, where he covered police and city government. He spent 36 years as a reporter for the former Tampa Tribune. During his time at the Tribune, he covered welfare and courts and did investigative reporting before spending 30 years as a feature writer. He worked as a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times for 12 years. He loves writing stories about interesting people, places and issues.